Gina’s Story

My name is Gina, and I’m 53, many years past the menopause, but I remember the two abortions I had when I was in my 20s.

My first abortion I had at age 26. I had been on birth control pills for many years during a time when the hormone dosage in birth control pills was much higher than it is today. I was starting to experience negative symptoms that scared me, so I stopped taking them for a while and used spermicidal creams, which did not work. I got pregnant. I was single, enjoyed my life and my job, and have never wanted to have children. I’m the oldest of six kids and spent most of my childhood taking care of babies and children – I love kids, but I guess I felt I’d already “been there, done that.” And, unlike many women, I knew in great detail what having – and raising– kids involved. So my decision not to have children was certainly an informed decision!

It was illegal to have abortions when I was a kid growing up, so my first reaction upon learning I was pregnant was terror. I’ll never forget that cold, pit-of-the-stomach-clenching feeling of real fear…that is, until my brain kicked in and I realized abortion was now legal. My feeling of relief was enormous. I did not tell the man involved, since we were only dating, and I didn’t want him weighing in on the subject. I figured it was my body, and my decision about what to do. I also didn’t know how he’d react and didn’t want him to feel badly about it. He never knew about any of it, and I’ve never regretted that decision.

I had Kaiser Permanente group medical coverage through my job at the time, so I arranged for my abortion through the nearest Kaiser hospital. My periods were always very regular, so I caught the pregnancy early, and I had my abortion when I was about 4 to 6 weeks pregnant. That meant I could have a simple “d&c” type abortion.

Prior to the abortion, a couple of days prior if I recall, I had to have something called a laminaria inserted into my cervix. The hospital staff explained that this would absorb body moisture, swell and enlarge, and in the process widen my cervix, making it easier to enter my uterus and suction/scrape out the fetus. Made sense to me – but having that thing put in hurt like hell. That was my only negative memory of the abortion.

I don’t remember the details of the abortion procedure itself, because I chose the option of having it done under general anesthesia and was “out” during the entire experience. Afterwards, I awoke on a gurney in a dimly lit recovery room, feeling no physical pain at all – just a gigantic sanitary pad between my thighs. As I awoke and felt that pad, I realized it meant the abortion was finished – and I felt absolutely ecstatic that I was free.

The nurses fed all of us – I had my abortion as part of a group of women who were all there for the same procedure – little plastic dishes of jell-o and pudding and were very kind to us. The only hassle was that, since I’d had general anesthesia, the hospital rules said I couldn’t drive myself home. Since I’d been informed about this prior to the abortion, I had already made arrangements to have a girlfriend pick me up, but it seemed stupid to me. I was so happy and full of energy that I asked my girlfriend if she felt like going shopping. She did, so we spent the afternoon walking all over this huge shopping mall in Northridge, California.

My second abortion happened a year later, and was pretty much a reprise of the first one – same hospital, same laminaria (ouch!), same general anesthetic, same dumb rules about not driving home, same post-procedure rush of elation.

It’s been over 25 years since my second and last abortion. I had an IUD put in after the second one, because I did not want to become pregnant again. I did not want to go back on the pill, but the spermicidal creams, diaphram, and “rhythm method” I’d been using obviously weren’t working. The IUD (NOT a copper 7) kept me from getting pregnant until I met someone who’d had a vasectomy and I no longer had to worry about pregnancy. Then I hit the menopause (breezed through it – I was VERY lucky), and now getting pregnant’s not an issue. It’s wonderful!

In the years since my abortions, I have never felt badly about what I did. I have felt very, very grateful to the brave women and men who bucked tradition and popular opinion and who made it possible for me to have two safe, legal abortions. The experience reaffirmed my feminist beliefs and encouraged me to stand up and take unpopular positions, especially if I believe it will help other people in some way. In a way I feel I’m in debt to the world, and it’s a debt I’m more than happy to try to repay.

I sometimes think that a big reason I felt fine having two abortions is that I grew up raising babies, and I know what a baby is. When I made my decision to have my abortions, I knew a fetus is not a baby. I knew it could become one – but I also knew that an egg in my ovaries could become a baby if I didn’t use birth control and allowed it to be penetrated by a sperm and then implant in my uterus. I never felt bad about taking steps to prevent that from happening, and I never felt bad about taking steps to prevent a fetus in my uterus from developing into a baby, either.

My abortions weren’t fun – like most people, I don’t like hospitals or surgery – but they were necessary. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted and, frankly, haven’t given much thought to throughout my life. In fact, I sometimes felt a little odd that I didn’t have much of an emotional reaction to them. I’ve read that some other women are tortured emotionally all their lives by their decision to abort, and I’ve wondered occasionally if women who felt as I did were really rare.

At this point in my life, all I feel is relief that I was able to get two abortions and immense gratitude towards the brave people who helped make it possible. I’ve never regretted not having kids. I love my life – it’s not traditional, but it’s my life the way I want to live it. I’m a lucky woman to be able to say that, and I want always to remember that and take opportunities to share that good fortune with others.